Dr Judith Guedalia

Seeing Life as It Can Be - Not Accepting Life As It Is!
By Dr. Judith Guedalia and Chaim K. 
        "When I first came to Dr. Guedalia, about a year ago, I believed/thought that my life was over, because I am paralyzed; because I can't do anything; because I can't breath on my own; because I can't get married. But since then, my way of thinking changed, and I learned to look at life in relative, not absolute terms.
          "Alright, my situation is not the best, but relative to Steven Hawking, my situation is very good, 'cause I can talk and express myself and my feelings in my own words.
         It's correct that I can't walk or breathe on my own, but relative to someone who is in a coma, my situation is good. I can go out to a restaurant, I can eat, and I can enjoy the food. I can meet with my friends and enjoy talking to them. I can hear and enjoy a good song. I can see and enjoy a good movie. I can appreciate 'little things.'
         "All of you, the people who are reading this, if you think your life is bad, think again. As much as your life is difficult, it could be worse. Take the gift of the life you are given and make the most of it for as long as it lasts. Because one day it's going to be taken from you and only then you will realize what you have lost. That's how I feel.
         "I see people and I feel bad. Why? Because they are wasting their lives and their time, they are not taking advantage of life.
         "I see myself a year-and-a-half ago, before I started coming to Dr. G., four years after the car that hit me left me with a spinal cord injury. And I feel bad that I didn't make the most of the gift that I was given in my current situation, that began six years ago around Purim. But now I realize that I have to appreciate the things I do have and not mourn the things I don't have. Stop looking at what you don't have and start seeing what you do have. Enjoy the good things."
         "To what do you attribute your optimism, when so many doctors are pessimistic and tell you not to hope?" I ask.
         "Because I do not believe they are right. They told me I should have been dead many times over. And see, here I am. I am sure that one day I'm going to have children, because the 'old-fashioned-way' is not the only way. When I see my nephews calling my name and crawling around my room, I just want it more and more, and I believe I will achieve this goal.
         "This is not just an understanding that comes out of accepting my situation, but has become a way of life for me. I think, it's not only people who are healthy that need to think and act and 'be' [into] this attitude, but people who are ill or handicapped in any way, can also improve their outlook on life.
         "I'm not saying that it is easy to make this 'mind switch,' but it is possible. Just take a look at me. I promise you that your life will be better after you change your perspective."
         I sit in "our" space agape and aware of monumental changes in Chaim K. Am I watching neuroplasticity in action?
         Over the past two decades, an enormous amount of research has revealed that the brain never stops changing and adjusting. Learning, as defined by Tortora and Grabowski (1996), is "The ability to acquire new knowledge or skills through instruction or experience. Memory is the process by which that knowledge is retained over time."
         The capacity of the brain to change with learning is called plasticity. So how does the brain change with learning? According to Durbach (2000), there appear to be at least two types of modifications that occur in the brain with learning: a change in the internal structure of the neurons, the most notable being in the area of synapses, and specifically, an increase in the number of synapses between neurons.
         Neuroplasticity is the brain's ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life, based on new experiences. In order to learn or memorize a fact or skill, there must be persistent functional changes in the brain that represent the new knowledge.
         Chaim K. has proven this "new" neuro-scientific fact by his '"apparent" switch. He has, though, made new synapses, connecting to different parts of his brain, learning to use the information at hand differently, i.e. new learning.
         With a smile on his lips and a twinkle in his eye, Chaim K. ends our session with this post script: "Hey, Dr. G. don't forget to add that I am available to optimistic, like-minded young women who live in Israel for shidduchim, and add my email:  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it "
         *If you don't have email you can write to him "snail mail" at: Mr. Chaim K. c/o Dr. J. Guedalia, Director, Neuropsychology Unit; Shaare Zedek Medical Center, Jerusalem 91031, Israel.



         Google Search; Wall Street Wall Street Journal (http://online.wsj.com/article/SD116915058061980596.html);
         Kandel, E.R., Schwartz, J.H. and Jessell, T.M. (2001) Principles of Neural Science (4th edition)


Originally published in the Jewish Press on February 28, 2007.

Tags: Chaim K. | Jewish Press | Neuroplasticity